While Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a whopping Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for Bihar on Tuesday, promises made by New Delhi and the State Government on reaching out to people who lost their houses and lifelong investments in the devastating flood of September 2014 haven’t translated into action so far.
A senior official said there has been no commitment from Government of India to provide a separate package for rehabilitation of flood victims and Rs 44000-crore package sought by the State for carrying out the reconstruction program has been “dumped”.
The official said few months ago there were “discussions” going on between New Delhi and the State on preparation of a roadmap to undertake the reconstruction program in both public and private sectors.
“That is it… We haven’t heard anything more,” the official said.
PROMISES AND DISAPPOINTMENT:
Soon after the floods hit Kashmir, the then Government of National Conference and Congress prepared a loss memo of Rs 44000 crore and submitted it to New Delhi for financing it to undertake the reconstruction program, though the Government had estimated that the total losses were over one lakh crore.
But the State met with disappointment when New Delhi rejected the proposal, terming it “ill-prepared” while asking the State to revisit it.
During the assembly election campaign and also after assuming the office in March this year, the PDP-led coalition Government kept reiterating that rehabilitation of the victims was its top priority.
“My government has accorded top priority to reconstruct the flood-ravaged infrastructure and rehabilitate those people who lost everything to the September flood fury,” Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said in Jammu on March 14. “I met Prime Minister who assured Centre’s support to rehabilitate the victims and restore public infrastructure.”
Though J&K’s Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu picked up holes in the Rs 44000-crore memo after presenting his maiden budget in Jammu, he however too assured that Government was committed towards rehabilitation of flood victims.
“…though New Delhi hasn’t taken any decision yet on quantum of funding that it would provide to J&K, the good thing is that funding pattern and funding sources for starting reconstruction have been decided,” Drabu told on May 7.
Responding to a question, a senior Government official said: “When there has been no commitment on financing the reconstruction, where does the question of delay in release of funds arise?”
When Durbar returned to Kashmir in May, the Government again reiterated its commitment to reach out to flood victims.
“Governance is the first priority of my government and we won’t sit back till every flood-affected family is adequately compensated and the process to rebuild the infrastructure is started,” Sayeed said on the opening of the Durbar here.
New Delhi also repeated the assurances to rehabilitate flood victims of the state.
On June 5, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said New Delhi was committed to rehabilitation of flood victims.
“When flood hit the state the Prime Minister personally reached out to the affected people. The Centre is committed to rehabilitate all people who have been hit by the flood,” he had said.
At least 2.61 lakh structures including residential houses were damaged — 21,485 of them completely—in the flood. The State has disbursed Rs 320 crore to 2.56 lakh families as per norms, while the remaining cases are “under process”.
As per the SDRF norms, Rs 75,000 were provided for rebuilding completely damaged concrete houses and Rs 3,800 for partially damaged ones. Besides, New Delhi has released Rs two lakh assistance to each family, Rs one lakh under disaster relief head and Rs one lakh to each family later as a special assistance. However scores of families have been alleging that they were yet to receive the assistance.
“The government’s compensation is laughable. It is like rubbing salt into our wounds,” said Muhammad Ramzaan of Shutrashahi, whose two-storey house was under water for two weeks.
“My house is not livable but I was given an assistance of only Rs 3800. This humiliation only gives rise to more anger,” he said.
After PDP joined hands with BJP, there was an expectation even within the PDP about a special financial package from New Delhi. But, a year long wait has now only led to disappointment of the flood victims.
“Everybody from the Government was talking of help which never came. The politicians promised that the Government of India will announce a package and redress our problems. They were all lying,’’ said Jameela Bano of Jawahar Nagar, one of the worst hit areas in Srinagar.
Like Jameela, scores of flood victims in Srinagar and other districts of Kashmir have been let down by the Government.
“One of the reason we joined hands with BJP was that J&K would get adequate funding to undertake the rehabilitation and reconstruction program. But the Centre’s stand on the issue has come as big disappointment,” said a senior PDP leader.
In his August-15 speech at Bakshi Stadium here, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, while speaking on the issue of flood victims, said he won’t rest till each victim is “compensated adequately.”
“Resources are not a problem for me but we want to take everyone along…,” Mufti asserted.
With New Delhi non-committal and State struggling with financial problems, the rehabilitation is going to be a big challenge for PDP led Government.
“There is nothing to talk about (the issue). The lesser said, the better,” said a senior PDP minister.